Military Service


Captain T. E. Halsey
Captain and Commander of the WWII battleship "King George V"

The Royal Navy: HMS King George V


King George V)
(British Battleship, 1939-1958)

At sea off Japan in company with U.S. Third Fleet ships on 16 August 1945, the day after the Japanese Government agreed to surrender.
Photographed from USS
Bon Homme Richard (CV-31).
Just beyond
King George V is USS Missouri (BB-63), with a British destroyer alongside. An Essex class aircraft carrier is in the distance.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives.


History of HMS King George V

The King George V battleships were designed by the Admiralty in 1936 under the restrictions of the Washington Treaty. She was laid down at the Walker Navy Yard, Newcastle-upon-Tyne by Vickers-Armstrong Ltd. Originally, she was to have been named HMS King George VI following the tradition of naming the first capital ship of a new reign after the monarch. The King requested that the ship be named in honour of his late father, King George V, after whom an earlier class of battleships had been named in 1911. A later member of this class of battleship was named HMS Duke of York in honour of the King instead - the other ships of this class were HMS Prince of Wales (sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers in the South China Sea, 10 December 1941), HMS Howe and HMS Anson.

The King George V was launched by King George VI on 21st February 1939 and, following fitting-out and sea trials, she was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 1st October 1940.  She was assigned to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, and this remained her principal base until 1944. From here, as flagship of the Home Fleet, she participated in several North Atlantic operations protecting the Arctic convoys. Alongside her sister ships, she provided a deterrent against the threat of the German capital ships Bismarck, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and Tirpitz. In May 1941 she led the fleet in the attack, and sinking, of the Bismarck in the North Atlantic, although she nearly had to turn for home before the end as she was running low on fuel.

In 1943 she was temporarily detached to duties in the Mediterranean, and was involved in the invasion of Sicily and attack on Taranto. In 1944 she was redeployed to the new British Pacific Fleet as the flagship of the fleet's second-in-command, Rear Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings. Although both she and her sister ship HMS Howe had a much reduced role compared with the North Atlantic campaign, often providing anti-aircraft cover for the fleet's aircraft carriers, they were both involved in the bombardments of Okinawa and southern Honshu, where the King George V last fired her main armament in anger.

Following the end of World War Two, the battleships of the King George V Class had become obsolete and expensive to run. Refitted in 1946/47, she was reduced to a training role in Portland. In 1950 the class was laid up in reserve in Gareloch. After the scrapping of the class was approved in 1957, she was broken up at Dalmuir and Troon the following year.


Commanding Officers & Admirals

15 July 1940: Captain W R Patterson

1 April 1941: Admiral Sir J C Tovey - CinC Home Fleet

6 May 1942: Captain P J Mack

15 February 1943: Captain T E Halsey

10 April 1945: Captain B B Schofield

June 1945: Rear Admiral Sir H B Rawlings - 2iC British Pacific Fleet

24 November 1945: Admiral Sir E N Syfret - CinC Home Fleet


Sagami Wan, Japan

The sun sets behind Mount Fujiyama on 27 August 1945, as seen from USS
Missouri anchored in Sagami Wan, outside of Tokyo Bay. Ships of the U.S. Third Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet are in the distance. Closest to the camera, in center, is HMS Duke of York, with HMS King George V next beyond her.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.


Timeline and Battle Honours

1 January 1937: Laid down at Walker Navy Yard, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

21 February 1939: Launched by HM King George VI

1 October 1940: Commissioned - pendant number 41

11 December 1940: Joins Home Fleet at Scapa Flow

1941-1944: Providing distant cover for Arctic convoys

15-25 January 1941: Conveys Lord Halifax to USA to take up his new position as British Ambassador. Returns with a Halifax convoy.

2-6 March 1941: Operation 'Claymore'.  Home Fleet provides cover for successful Commando raid on fish oil factories in Lofoten Islands.

1 April 1941: Flagship of Home Fleet - Admiral Sir John Cronyn Tovey (to May1943)

22-27.May 1941: Bismarck Action in North Atlantic culminating in the sinking of the German battleship at 1035 on the 27th 600 miles west of Brest.

October 1941: Operation 'EJ'.  In support of aircraft carrier HMS Victorious in action against German shipping along the Norwegian coast.

December 1941: Home Fleet provides seaward cover for Commando raid on Vaagso Island.

1 May 1942: Collides in fog with HMS Punjabi.  The destroyer is sliced in two by the battleship, and sinks.  Punjabi's depth-charges explode, blowing 40ft from the bows of the battleship, requiring repairs and refitting at Liverpool.

July 1942: Returns to Home Fleet at Scapa Flow

May-August 1943: Reinforces Force H, with HMS Howe, for operations supporting Operation 'Husky', the Allied invasion of Sicily.

12 July 1943: HMS King George V and HMS Howe bombard Trapani, Sicily and Favigana, Island of Levanzo.

9 September 1943: Operation 'Slapstick'.  Attack on Italian Naval base at Taranto at the same time as Operation 'Avalanche', the Allied landings at Salerno.

October 1943: Returns to Home Fleet at Scapa Flow

December 1943-January 1944: Returns to Gibraltar to collect Winston Churchill following Cairo and Tehran Conferences.

February-July 1944: Refit at Liverpool in preparation for re-deployment to the Eastern Fleet

October 1944: Temporarily returns to Scapa Flow to cover possible threat from Tirpitz before she was sunk by the RAF on 12 November.

28 October-15 December 1944: Sails to Trincomalee, Ceylon, to join newly-formed British Pacific Fleet (BPF). Hoists flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, second-in-command BPF and the fleet's tactical commander at sea.

November 1944: Whilst on passage stopped at Alexandria - bombards German positions at the Lakida Battery, Milos in the Aegean.

January-February 1945: Sails to Sydney. Whilst underway, completes her first at-sea refuelling taking 12 hours.

February-March 1945: Sails to Manus, Admiralty Islands (forward base of operations for the BPF) as part of Task Force 113.

March 1945: Joins US Pacific Fleet under Admiral Chester Nimitz (CinC Pacific) for Operation 'Iceberg' - the Allied invasion of Okinawa.

20 March 1945: Arrives at Ulithi (SW of Guam), base of the US 5th Fleet under Admiral Spruance. British fleet re-designated Task Force 57.

26-27 March 1945: Royal Navy task force attacks 6 Japanese airfields on the islands SW of Okinawa.

July 1945: HMS King George V becomes first RN warship to refuel at sea abeam of the tanker (previously hoses were streamed astern of the tanker, but they were very susceptible to parting)

29 July 1945: Involved in bombardment of Hamamatsu, in the south of Honshu.  Start 2319, range to target 20,075 yards, fired 265 14" shells (of which only 7 actually hit the target), firing ceases 2356. This is the last time HMS King George V fired her main armament in anger.

15 August 1945: VJ Day

27 August 1945: Anchored in Sagami Wan with rest of Pacific Fleet. Continuously at sea for 52 days (since 6 July) - a record for an RN battleship, steaming a total of 19,200 miles.

2 September 1945: Formal Japanese surrender signed on board USS Missouri - HMS King George V provided the chairs for the signatories.

2 March 1946: Returns to Portsmouth. Flagship of CinC Home Fleet

December 1946: Refit at Devonport

November 1947: Training battleship based at Portland

July 1949: Admiralty announces that the King George V Class to be laid up in reserve

June 1950: Towed to Gareloch where she is 'cocooned' (i.e. 'mothballed') alongside HMS Anson and Duke of York.

April 1957: Approval of class to be scrapped.

17 December 1957: HMS King George V removed from Royal Navy List.

1958: Broken up by Arnott Young & Co at Dalmuir. Hull towed to Troon for breaking up.


Battle Honours

Jutland 1916
Atlantic 1941
Bismarck Action 1941
Arctic 1942-1943
Sicily 1943
Okinawa 1945


King George V Class Statistics

Displacement: 44,460 tons
Length: 745 feet
Beam: 103 feet
Draught: 35.5 feet
Complement: 1,314 to 1,631
Speed: 27.5 knots
10 x 14-inch guns
16 x 5.2-inch guns
64 x 2-pounders
2 aircraft
Machinery: Geared Turbines, 110,000 shp, 4 screws


There has been been two warships to bear the name King George V, both were battleships, and both were named after King George V, each taking their place in the history of the Royal Navy.

George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert Windsor, né Wettin1) (3 June 1865-20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (from 1927, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and Emperor of India from 6 May 1910 until his death. He was the first British monarch of the House of Windsor. He was born at Marlborough House


HMS King George V (1911-1926)

The first HMS King George V was a King George V-class dreadnought, with a displacement of 23,400 tonnes and an armament of 10 x 13.5-inch guns in twin turrets and 16 x 4-inch guns and had a crew complement of 870, though this increased substantially by 1916  to 1,110, and had a length of 597 feet. She took part in the Battle of Jutland, being the lead ship of the 1st Division of the 2nd Battle Squadron. Her sister-ships were Centurion, Audacious and Ajax. Audacious was sunk by a mine off Northern Ireland, the rest survived WW, until decommissioned by 1924.

King George V herself was decommissioned in 1919, used as a training ship between 1923-26 and scrapped in 1926.


HMS King George V (1939-1958)

The second HMS King George V was the name-ship of a class of battleships that included such iconic names as Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Anson and Howe. She had a relatively weak armament in comparison to other warships of the Royal Navy that were built after ignoring the London Naval Limitation Treaty became common practice. King George V and the four other ships of the Class were most crucially out-gunned by the massive German battleship Bismarck and her sister-ship Tirpitz.  She was the flagship of the Home Fleet under the command of Admiral Sir John Tovey, and was involved in the legendary chase for the Bismarck. On the 27 May, she and Rodney, poured an incredible number of shells into to the hull of the ill-fated German ship.

Following the successful destruction of Bismarck, the ship was involved in a tragic accident, in which she collided with the destroyer HMS Punjabi, resulting in the sinking of the latter ship and minimal damage for King George V during the spring of 1942. She also covered the landings at Sicily, as well as having the prestigious honour of taking Churchill back to Britain from the Tehran Conference.

From 1944 to the surrender of Japan, King George V served with the British Pacific Fleet, being present at Japan during the official surrender ceremony. She was recommissioned as flagship of the Home Fleet in 1946, but was decommissioned just three years later into the Reserve Fleet and subsequently scrapped at Dalmuir in 1957. All King George V Class ships survived WWII, with the exception of the Prince of Wales. The other four, including King George V, were scrapped in the same year in 1957, though each secured their place in the history books of the Royal Navy.


This page was last updated May 5, 2004.